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Local 5 - weareiowa.com | Des Moines Local News & Weather | Des Moines, Iowa

'We're not gonna let you hijack our message': Des Moines leaders speak out following weekend of protests

'Their message was powerful. Their voices were heard, but the lawless acts of a few hijacked that message, and endangered the lives of other ones,' Reynolds said.

DES MOINES, Iowa — Following a weekend of protests, Gov. Kim Reynolds and several Des Moines city leaders held a press conference on the Iowa State Capitol steps Monday afternoon.

Des Moines Mayor Frank Cownie, police Chief Dana Wingert and Rep. Ako Abdul-Samad, D- Des Moines joined Reynolds at 2 p.m. to address the community.

Over the weekend, several protests escalated to violence throughout Des Moines following the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis.

Derek Chaunvin, a former Minneapolis police officer, has been charged with third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter.

Friday night marked the first night of protests in the city with a protest that started peacefully at the Des Moines police station.

Some protesters escalated the situation, with police cars being vandalized as well as several businesses. 

"Their message was powerful. Their voices were heard, but the lawless acts of a few hijacked that message, and endangered the lives of other ones," Reynolds said on Monday.

Cownie agreed with Reynolds.

"The raw emotions facing Des Moines surrounding the death of George Floyd are understandable. It was a horrific event and unacceptable. We can't undo what happened, but we can have an impact on how we move forward as a city together," he said. 

Abdul-Samad stepped up to the podium and thanked the other leaders surrounding him, and then extended his thanks to the protesters.

"But let me also thank the protesters that came out. That was able to educate us, the peaceful protesters that came with a mission that came to talk about justice," he said.

He then spoke of a man who came to him during one of the protests and said "we just want people to listen to us." 

"We don't want people to hear what we have to say, we want people to hear our pain," he recalled the man saying. As an African American male, Abdul-Samad said he understood that pain. 

"Tears began to swell up in my eyes, his pain came through, because I told him my answer to him was that is a process, but this gives us an opportunity to look at everything that has been compounded to this point to now, look for systemic change to look for systemic solutions, and to develop a process," he said.

Abdul-Samad made a call to action for those at the press conference. 

"But now's the time for you to come to the table. Us as leaders have to bring these young people now and you're gonna go to the table, so that the next press conference that we hold in a month or so, you see some of those young adults in here, addressing you and saying we're going to work a process," he said. 

He then reminded those listening that not all of the protesters were inciting violence at these protests. 

"They had a voice that they wanted to say. We have less than 3% of individuals that had a different message. And they hijacked the message that these young people had because their modem was the cause disruption and destroy and disturb," he said.

"We are all in this together. And we're not gonna let you hijack our babies. We're not let you hijack our message. And that you need to take that out of Iowa, because Iowans have come together to stand together and make sure that you can't hijack what we have," Abdul-Samad stated.

Betty Andrews is the president of the Iowa-Nebraska NAACP. She stepped to the podium to share her pain and frustration.

"COVID-19 has revealed the challenges and put the spotlight on those challenges, but that's not the only pandemic that we are dealing with. We are dealing with a legacy of oppression, a proverbial knee, that America has on the neck of the African American community," she said. 

Andrews continued, "And we understand that there is pain. There is hurt. There is frustration. I'm there. I'm black and I share that pain and frustration. And we also acknowledge, as have all of our officials that this is a perfect time to protest and to raise awareness around these issues. We don't want George Floyd to die in vain. We don't want Brianna Taylor, to die in vain. We want justice."

"We need to address this legacy that started with America's greatest sin. Racism, slavery, and all of its babies that that have come since. We need to do that, but we need to do that in a way that is strategic. So we must protest insistently and peacefully. We must press and not also, we must use our voice to vote, we have the opportunity on June 2 to have a huge protest to make sure that we are walking to the polls and making sure that our voice is heard," she concluded.

Gov. Reynolds concluded the press conference by admitting that government needs to implement systemic change in the justice system.

"I said in my remarks, it's going to be uncomfortable. I've not walked in your shoes, I don't know what you've experienced, help me understand what you've experienced and what we're doing wrong so that we can get rid of those injustices and continue to lift up everybody and give everybody that chance to be successful," she stated.

"This is a land of opportunity we need everybody to be able to have that same opportunity. So, I need to be there, I need to listen, I'm willing to do it. We're going to figure out a way to facilitate that. And we're going to get it done."

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Des Moines police said they stayed in the police station while the peaceful protest went on, but were forced to intervene after a small group turned violent.

"We took no action until protesters surrounded a police car that was blocking vehicle traffic to allow them safe passage and attacked the officer," Sgt. Paul Parizek told Local 5 that night.

"From there rocks were thrown (one striking me), bricks thrown, car windows smashed. Sadly, a small group of deliberate instigators turned a peaceful and productive protest violent."

RELATED: Protesters and police-line clash as George Floyd rally escalates in Des Moines

Des Moines Mayor Frank Cownie echoed that sentiment, saying violence was never the intention of organizers and the vast majority of the people in attendance.

"Like hundreds of Des Moines residents, I attended [Friday] night's rally. It was peaceful and powerful, as it was intended. It had a purpose," Mayor Cownie said. "Unfortunately, for some, that wasn't acceptable and they took matters into their own hands."

The downtown location of Hilltop Tire Service, located just down E 2nd from the police station, and some other businesses saw extensive damage dealt amid the violence that ensued.

Protests continued Saturday night, again starting peacefully. It was a small amount of people instigating the violence.

Sunday came, and while there was still tension, it seemed to be a more peaceful evening. Polk County officials announced a curfew from 9 p.m. to 5 a.m. until further notice.

RELATED: Curfew issued for Polk County to remain in place until further notice

RELATED: Protests take over downtown Des Moines Saturday night

At the Des Moines Police Department, officers and SWAT members knelt with protesters in solidarity, which resulted in some protesters dispersing.

Still, protests continued near Merle Hay Mall. 

Early Monday morning, the Des Moines Fire Department responded to a gas station that was attacked by Molotov cocktails.

There is a protest scheduled for Monday evening in Des Moines Local 5 will bring you full coverage regarding the protests on-air and online.

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WATCH: Local 5 coverage protests in central Iowa following the death of George Floyd